Back in 1995 a man drowned in Cincinnati, Ohio. I lived there at the time and saw it on the news. I can’t recall his name, the lake where it happened, or the exact date. Google can’t seem to remember, either. The story is basically gone. When you vanish so thoroughly even the media record can’t find you, that’s unsettling. It’s as though you cease to exist at the level of public consciousness. Where most of the world is concerned, this guy went from a living, breathing person to a statistic on a Drowning Victims grid. He turned into a number.
The gist of the story: a little girl fell into a lake. A man standing nearby dove in after her. She was saved, but he drowned. As it turned out, he hadn’t known how to swim.
I don’t remember this man because he didn’t die for me. I forgot him and so did you, because he didn’t die for you, either. No doubt some research-savvy person out there could look up the event and say, “I found it!” but that’s not the point. They would have to look it up. Which means apart from trivia it meant nothing to them to begin with.
There are people who won’t forget. I still recall the stunned faces of the girl’s parents on television, as they thanked the man post-mortem. I’m pretty sure they remember his name. I hope their little girl knows it. She’s probably about 23 years old now. I wonder if she went to the trouble of finding out who he was. I hope she tells his story. I’d like to think she has his picture in a locket somewhere. Maybe she wrote about him as the subject of a paper in high school. On those days when she is tempted to feel useless and meaningless, maybe she remembers somebody who didn’t feel that way about her. The man who died for her didn’t stop before he threw himself into the water and ask if she would be overweight, or beautiful, or rich, or smart, or the inventor of something important. And those moments even now, when she might toy with the idea of simply doing nothing with her life, maybe a winsome question floats into her mind that asks, Did he die for nothing?
I’m considering all this as I think about Thursday night, when we will commemorate the Last Supper.